In an online course, you might use a variety of media to communicate with your students. There are ways to communicate your presence whether working solely in text, using static text and visuals, or integrating audio and video. No matter the medium, the basic goal is the same: In addition to providing relevant course content to your students, you want to help them feel connected to a human being.
The first step to figuring out what media you want to use is determining what your message is going to be. Check out some tips and tricks in the message.
At first glance, text communication can seem so limited in the context of providing presence. But is it? Some of the elements of communication that are at your disposal on a keyboard include:
- and of course, your words
My students often tell me they can hear me smiling when they read most of my messages -- and other times, they can tell that I'm quite serious. It's all because I'm careful about how I choose to communicate in writing with my students. I use punctuation for effect. I use emoticons sparingly, but in situations where I want to make sure that the happiness or sadness is conveyed. And finally (but perhaps most importantly), I write in the style of correspondence and not in the style of an academic manuscript.
Consider the two sample emails below. They both share the same key information, but the first one contains no emotion or presence whereas the second one has a friendly, helpful tone.
Sample email: Low presence
Sample email: Higher presence, critical details bolded to stand out
Are you a fan of emoticons? Some people are, some people aren't, but they certainly are a useful way of expressing oneself using just text or a simple, standard image. Check out this article on emoticons in online learning:
Often people are hesitant to use video because they're concerned with how they'll look. That's understandable -- although remember, your students are probably more interested seeing that you're human than anything else.
The key with video is to use it in a way that helps you connect with the viewer. Looking at the camera and addressing the audience directly helps, as does smiling and trying to maintain the same kind of energy you would have if speaking to someone in person. Check out this brief video, which illustrates that point.
Here are some additional tips to help you create effective desktop videos with good presence.
This brief video reiterates several of the environmental points made in the above document -- and the video's narrator has good presence!
And finally, don't forget about using the simple tools for a quick check-in. When I travel and may have less presence on a discussion forum, I record brief videos on location to maintain presence with my students. I use an iPhone -- nothing fancy, but it works!